The Best Critique of Billy Collins I've ever read (It's really long, but so worth it.)


The title of this post reminds me of the theme of that essay we are reading for class now: it neatly eliminates itself in the act of becoming. Billy collins? Critique? So long? Worth it? I'd rather crochet myself a new pair of woolen knickers
ha ha...(lol)

Totally understand. This is a good essay for (a) people who are looking for fodder in their arguments with Collins proponents, or (b) people who are simply curious about Collins and the phenomenon surrounding him, and want to hear a calm, intelligent critique of him as a writer, and as a model for other writers. Young poets are flocking to his style in numbers, which means--although there are those of us sick of hearing/talking about Billy Collins (me included)--he remains a valuable topic for discussion.
A tiny, ugly, greedy little man that lives inside me sometimes tries to convince me to write like Billy Collins so that I might someday own a home. His equally ugly, greedy wife tells me to write romance novels instead to make that house a mansion.

If you'd like to write your own Billy Collins poem, try following this recipe:


This is my favorite quote from the essay:
"He is the Kenny G. of poetry."
I like Collins. I'm with John Updike, quoted in David Lehman's foreword to the 2006 Best American Poetry (edited by Billy Collins), who describes Collins' poems as "limpid, gently and consistently startling, more serious than they seem."

I didn't find the evidence put forth in the essay particularly compelling. Most of the examples of so-so language are taken from Collins' first book (The Apple That Astonished Paris) which I find his weakest--much of it is apprentice-like. His later work is assured and convincing. As for formal variety as a measure of good poetry--many poets, many great poets, don't or didn't write in a variety of forms? Did Whitman? Dickinson?

As the Updike quote suggests, I find that in his most interesting work, beneath the pleasing, "accessible" surface, there are deeper inquiries into human experience. As for craft, his senses of cadence, structure, and the subtle tonalities of words are worth examining.

He's a bit middle-class, for my tastes, but he's aware of who he is, and the ground he's standing on, and this makes his voice convincing.

(Update: I'm not digging his selections in BAP all that much.)
He's gotta be at least upper middle class by now, huh...? :) If not upper class.

Who are you, flotson? I enjoyed reading your comments.
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